by Ian Bushell
The following programme of actions was taken as an outcome of the review of the park on 27th January 2013 by the Wiltshire Countryside Team and Friends of Southwick Country Park. It is intended that this is a living document: a record of previous projects, tasks undertaken, an update of works carried out during 2020, and a review of the park in general.
The priorities of the Countryside Team and FoSCP are:
- Health & Safety of the volunteers working in, and public using the park
- Ecology: increasing biodiversity and gaining Local Nature Reserve status.
- Providing public access for all groups and abilities.
- Maintaining the park so that its appearance and ambience attracts the public.
Highlights of 2020
- Covid-19. This has been an horrendous year. However, the park during the lock-down periods has provided a refuge and place of sanity to the public and has many new users and admirers other than dog walkers. It was a pleasure in the summer, and has continued, to see family groups of all ages and abilities enjoying strolls and picnics throughout the park.
- The Countryside Team (CT) has remained under great pressure and has now been reorganised and amalgamated with the Rights of Way (ROW). Vicky Roscoe and Paul Millard are now the first points of contact, providing the close liaison and support with FoSCP. Our common goal to enhance and increase the biodiversity within the park continues.
- David Galliers. We are saddened to announce the loss of DKG, our gifted in-house photographer; David Keith Galliers died peacefully at home after a short illness. We will miss his dry sense of humour, his kindness and his hard-working enthusiasm for the park, which he recorded for us in all its seasons and moods. His obsession with early morning light has left us some truly unforgettable images. Our heartfelt condolences go to his family.
- Tenant Farmer. In 2020 no spraying of the Park was made and our tenant farmer made a hay cut in June and a second hay cut in late September. As agreed, he made two cuttings at each harvest a few days apart thus allowing, particularly for invertebrates, some sanctuary. The Ragwort problem remains [particularly in Sleeper, Corn and Sheep Fields plus Lambrok Meadow] but is much reduced. Additionally hand pulling by the FoSCP cleared Village Green, Brunt’s Field, the Race, the Allotment area and the bottom of Corn Field prior to the cut. It is encouraging that biodiversity within the fields is again increasing.
- Ancient & Veteran Oaks. A survey of all veteran trees within the park has been conducted, a prioritised programme made, and work has started to halo these trees and construct protective barriers around them. This is a long term programme. Oaks [5563 to 5565] at the bottom of Brunt’s Field were haloed in January and February.
- Main Car Park. Parking remained free following the agreement by FoSCP with the Wiltshire Council for FoSCP to maintain the Car Park to an agreed standard.
In March, the car park was closed to the public to comply with Covid 19 requirements.
In August the car park was again closed for a week when planings were professionally laid. Planings were also used to improve the ‘Tunnel’ path from the top of Simpsons to the Arboretum, and the loop track to link the hard paths to the rear of the entrance Oak.
A chicane entrance into the park was constructed at bottom of car park, the sump area cleared and robust dragon’s teeth installed.
Surrounding banks again cleared and additional whips planted.
The three bins replaced.
- Proposed Development Church Lane et al. This proposed residential development, though outside SCP, shares a common border with the park for some 500 metres – the Lambrok Stream. The FoSCP are deeply concerned and believe that Lambrok Streams’ ecological importance has not been properly assessed. Furthermore we believe that it will not be possible to protect Lambrok Streams’ biota from the consequences of development at the Church Lane site and that the development of the site will incur loss of habitat for the park’s wildlife. FoSCP are also concerned that the proposed developments at Upper Studley and Southwick Court could also adversely affect the Lambrok Stream and have had meetings with the management of both developers. FoSCP continue to question developments and intend to commission a more rigorous ecology survey.
- Working with Groups. Covid has precluded the Countryside Team and Friends from hosting any other groups. However, a mutual concern for the safeguarding of the Lambrok Stream’s ecology has meant we have formed a close liaison with the owners of Southwick Court, reflected throughout this report. It is hoped to host groups in 2021.
- Parkrun. Has been on hold since restrictions implemented.
- Friends of SCP. During this difficult time the Friends have changed their work party routine to every Wednesday morning, very ad hoc during limiting times, however, this resulted in a great deal being achieved in the promotion of and maintenance of the Park:
A vibrant Webpage – https://southwickcountrypark.com – edited by Suzanne Humphries now has more than 900 followers and apart from providing information and photographs on the fauna and flora within the park and all the works carried out by the FoSCP, leads on campaigns directly affecting SCP, in particular planning applications to develop the Church Lane, Upper Studley and Southwick Court sites.
FoSCP have a regular contribution, provided by Sarah Marsh, in the Southwick Village News.
- The haloing programme of Veteran Oaks and Ash is now well established and continues.
- Brambles and undergrowth cleared plus widening various gateways and paths throughout the park to make them more accessible to the public and runners.
- Planting. In March at the start of lockdown 150 whips were planted in the bund defining Hope Nature Centre’s car park in Simpsons Field. Car parking access to the rest of Simpsons Field is now controlled by the Countryside Team by a chain and padlock. Some 100+ whips remain tobe planted. Fifteen (15) Disease Resistant Elm trees have been obtained and are to be planted in the Corn/Sleeper hedgerow to encourage the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.
- Litter Bins. In July within the park nine new litter bins either replaced the small dog bins or provided additional bins; all were relocate to provide a better ‘spread’ throughout the park.
- Ragwort, principally in Village Green, Corn Field, Sheep Field and The Race pulled prior to the hay cut; gratefully the problem is reducing.
- Bat Monitoring & Moth Trapping. No bat monitoring was carried out in SCP, however, RPS conducted a Bat Activity Survey for the Church Lane site during April to June 2020 using both Transect and Static recording techniques. A total of 13 species including both Greater and Lesser Horseshoe were recorded. At Southwick Court during August and September a survey and recording of bats was conducted which identified nine (9) species including Greater Horseshoe and Daubenton’s bats. These records have been included in the SCP Species Listing because of their close proximity and overlapping foraging areas.
- A successful Moth Trapping evening was carried out on 16 July.
- Fund Raising. Covid has prevented fund raising. However, a very generous park user has donated £1,000 to the Friends which will be used to buy a cordless brush cutter.
No Area Board Grant was applied for.
- Flora & Fauna The highlight of the year is probably the video recording of the Otter in the moat at Southwick Court confirming all the evidence we have of them traversing the Lambrok.
A mixed year for lepidoptera: Four transects made and 20 species of butterfly recorded notably the first Brown Argus ever recorded in the park, but all species spread well over the park. Overall 25 moth species were recorded of which 21 were identified during the moth trapping in July, notably a Poplar Hawkmoth and in May the web-style nest of a Small Eggar moth was reported and photographed.
On a happier note during the summer twelve species of Odonata were confirmed, including for the first time Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker and Azure Damselfly.
Also newly identified were 12 invertebrates, including a Wasp Spider, four new species of flora and seven species of fungi.
Future Projects and Considerations.
- Veteran Trees. Veteran and Ancient Oaks are a key feature of the park. A long term programme of haloing on a priority basis to continue.
- Local Nature Reserve status. Gain LNR status – this is very close now.
- Lambrok Stream. Obtain funding for an ecological survey of the river. Organise a clean-up and seek help and advice on bank conservation.
- Main Entrance. Maintain car park to agreed standard with Wilts Council.
- Woodland Trust will hopefully continue to provide whips needed to complete the hedge around new HNC car parking area in Simpsons Field.
- Encroaching vegetation. Brambles, Nettles etc. have in some areas [particularly Lambrok Meadow and Corn Field] encroached on to the hard path. Reduction of this growth and reinstatement of the path is probably a contractor task.
- Permanent Path. As ever, seek funding to refurbish/improve. However, at an estimated £100K+ this will be a major undertaking.